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Resources for Teaching the 25th Anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Democracy Demonstrations


Tiananmen Square 

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In early June of 1989, China declared martial law and ordered the military to crack down on pro-democracy demonstrations by students in Beijing's Tiananmen Square. On June 3 &4, hundreds of unarmed civilians were killed by the Chinese government. No official count of the dead was ever released, and China has prohibited any form of discussion or remembrance of the event. One of the most famous photos to come out of the event is "Tank Man", an unknown civilian who placed himself in the line of Chinese tanks heading to end the demonstrations. Tank Man's fate is unknown. The clearing of protestors from the Square is simply known as "June Fourth" in China. Ironically, "Tiananmen Square" means "Gate of Heavenly Peace".

The Atlantic has a first-person account of the Tiananmen Square uprising from a woman living in Beijing and teaching English. This is a truly amazing, gut-wrenching history of one US citizen's view of the events.

Reuters has a similar first-person account, with photographs.

One of the several photographers who were able to get a picture of Tank Man has released negatives from the uprising that were never published. It is a somber collection of primary sources that students could analyze in a discussion of the events in Beijing that spring.

The Washington Post outlines how the younger generation in China don't know what happened in 1989, nor the implications of the event.

The New York Times looks at how China is attempting to halt discussion of the anniversary - not easy with today's technology.

The Telegraph (UK) has a story about the only known man still imprisoned for the events in Tiananmen Square.

NPR looks at the mothers of those killed in the uprising.

Louisa Lim, author of "The People's Republic of Amnesia: Tiananmen Revisited", talks to the Washington Post about her experience writing about the uprising while in Beijing.

PBS has a lesson from Frontline about Tank Man, including discussion questions and critical analysis of the famous photograph.

The Choices program from Brown University also has a lesson on Tank Man, released on the 20th anniversary of Tiananmen Square in 2009. This lesson focuses on censorship, media bias, and perspective.

On the 26th anniversary of Tiananmen Square, Business Insider posted an article with the story of how the Tank Man photographs were smuggled out of China, as well as the opportunity for close-up looks at the contact sheets (multiple photos, similar to negatives) from that day.  

The US-China Institute at the University of Southern California has a lesson plan on Tank Man and the events of Tiananmen Square.  It focuses on the primary source analysis of the photograph, and comparing what they see to what their textbook may say about the events in 1989.  
For questions about this information, contact Kristen McDaniel (608) 266-2207